It’s Probably 2012 All Over Again For Michigan State
UPDATE: I was wrong.
"Please, God. Not again."
If you're a Michigan State fan, you may have overhead these words or something to their effect at Spartan Stadium Friday night (or maybe you even said them to yourself).
In their season opener, facing a completely overmatched FCS opponent, the Spartans sputtered on offense like they did in 2012 and early 2013. And that probably gave the MSU faithful some painful flashbacks.
The good people at The Only Colors pretty much nailed it on Twitter during the game:
State was a 38.5-point favorite over Furman in Vegas. That's a big point spread, to be sure. But MSU didn't even come close to covering it in its 28-13 win.
If Friday night felt awfully familiar to you, it should have: MSU let an overmatched opponent hang around late into the game, just like the Spartans did a season ago versus the likes of Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Purdue, Rutgers, Nebraska, etc. That only came back to bite them once in 2015, but this year's Spartans aren't as talented on offense and probably can't get away with it like they did a season ago.
Also, let's remember that not only is Furman an FCS opponent, it's an FCS opponent coming off a 4-7 record last year. This is a team Michigan State completely overwhelms in terms of resources and talent, and should have completely overwhelmed on the field.
The coaches and players may say a win is a win, but let's be real: MSU should have had Furman put away in the first half. The Spartans staff had planned on playing quarterbacks other than Tyler O'Connor for significant snaps, but Furman was in the game until the final five minutes, effectively ruining those plans.
Aside from stagnant offense, State also had some glaring mental errors on Friday. One of the biggest differences of the Mark Dantonio era from previous incarnations of MSU football is discipline. Since 2007, the Spartans haven't been as prone to penalties, particularly personal fouls on third downs defensively.
Friday night was a disappointment in that regard, too: Michigan State committed 10 penalties for 120 yards--two of them were personal fouls that extended drives for Furman.
MSU also lost the turnover battle to the Paladins, 2-1, by way of a lost fumble from redshirt freshman Darrell Stewart Jr. and a bad interception from O'Connor while the Spartans nursed an 8-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Then there was a "Holy [bleep]" moment in the middle of the final period when O'Connor lost his grip on the ball in the pocket and nearly bobbled it right to an ensuing Furman defender. O'Connor managed to corral the ball, but if he hadn't it was going the other way for 6 and a big stress-headache for MSU.
Ugly, slow start. And yes, it could have been worse. And to be fair, there were some bright spots.
Despite the interception, O'Connor was relatively efficient, going 13-for-18 for 190 yards and three touchdowns; LJ Scott racked up 105 yards and a score on 20 carries; and Monty Madaris burst onto the scene, cathcing five balls for 85 yards. And the Spartan defense was excellent.
But all of those positives couldn't remove the pall cast over Spartan Stadium by a performance that evoked memories of 2012.
Michigan State doesn't play again until they visit Notre Dame on Sept. 17. The Spartans clearly could use another tune-up opponent before then to make some more progress and give O'Connor more time to get into a groove, but they don't have that luxury.
It's too bad, because Michigan State desperately needs more time before it heads down to South Bend.